Convention Reports
A Visit to GenCon 1995

GenCon this year was a lot of fun! It was a lot different than previous years, at least for me, but it was different in a neat sort of way. I didn't get to play much, (only 4 games total) but the rest made up for it. So, without further ado, here is the slot-by-slot ruminations...

SLOT 0 - RPGA Meeting

Wednesday evening (August 9th), many RPGA members gathered at the Hyatt's ballroom for the annual member's meeting. The unfortunate thing was that the scheduling monitors said it was going to be at 6 PM, and I didn't see anything to the contrary in the program, so I showed up there then.... and waited an hour. It started at 7. Oh, well.

The first thing on the agenda was a short address from the new RPGA director, Scott Douglas. He struck me as a good person for the job. (He made no apologies for the the changes that were made in the Living City, saying that he would take all the credit and the blame. More later.) Next came the charity auction, which those who have gone to the meeting in the past will recognize as the most tedious part. This year's wasn't all that bad. There was a 45 minute scheduled time slot (I believe; I lost the agenda they passed out), and it went over by only five minutes. They even got everything sold, I believe. Anyway, check out these numbers and see if there's anything amiss:

All in all, well over $4,500 for Children's Hospital and Okada. As Jean Rabe would have said, "It's for puppies and children!" Isn't it curious that the sheets of paper (the four LC magical books, the pommel, the animal companion, and the horse) made about three-quarters of that? ::sigh:: Especially since one person bought two of the books, I believe.

The meeting went on with the State of the Network speech and some Q&A. I believe that I wrote down incorrect numbers, but those numbers are 6700 domestic and 800 international members. Later, Scott mentioned 9600 total members, so I must have misheard something somewhere. Everything is caught up (there was rejoicing), the September tournaments have been sent out, and the October tournaments should be going out soon after GenCon. This is in part due to the efforts of the new tournament coordinator, Robert Wiese. In the next few months, HQ will be looking at restructuring, like tiered memberships for an example (pay more for more benefits) or a product that RPGA members can get before its officially released. There will be players', judges' and tournament coordinators' handbooks out in a year or so, to help reduce confusion. At Winter Fantasy next year, there will be a 32 page "promotion" (Scott can't produce a "product") called LC5, the Player's Survival Guide. This will be an official guide to the Living City. Scott didn't seem entirely sure what will appear, but he gave several examples of what could be there which I neglected to write down. :(

Most members will know by now that the knighthoods, laws, heraldry and new LC character guidelines are in Poly #110. (I have not looked at them in any detail yet.) They are "not negotiable" :) and become effective October 15th, which should give everyone plenty of time to retrofit characters. Scott noted that this is after AndCon and another convention the name of which I forget. Both apparently big LC cons. He said if you do or don't like them, send him feedback. The guidelines will be changed sometime in the future (this is a living setting, after all), and the feedback is appreciated. The books that rules can be used from has been reduced so that judges have less rules that they need to have at least a passing familiarity with. Chemcheaux may be back. There is a freelance group doing trading, buying and selling, which is not entirely sanctioned, but is not discouraged, either.

Turning to Living Jungle, there will be an expanded guide on giving out Hero Points in Poly #113. This is to be a pretty heavy LJ issue, apparently. The LJ tribe contest submissions have been scored, and the locations will be announced in the FOG area on AOL (what happened to GEnie?). They will also be at the (and I found this most interesting; first I seriously heard of it) TSR World Wide Web site, which will be online by the end of the year.

Anyway, before or during or after the meeting, I ran into several fellow GEnieites, including Dave Gross, Jeff Stolt (Overlord), Jamie and Stacy Chambers (and their sister Bambi and father), Drizzt (whose real name I'm still not sure of :), Eric Rosenberg, Jay Fisher (The.Minstrel) and Carl Buehler (well, I saw him speak). I got to sit in the front row (I was there so early, remember?) between Jeff and Wes Nicholson.

SLOT 1 - "The Phoenix Effect" (Torg)

And then the actual con started, 8AM Thursday. I played the only Torg game in the pre-reg book. It was... all right. A bit on the uneventful side, possibly. But it was Torg, the best role-playing game system I've ever played. (IMHO :) This was down in the labyrinth underneath Bruce Hall, and there was a vent shooting arctic blasts of air at us, until we built a sort of wind shield and then later the vent was turned down. This was rather uncomfortable, as I was dressed for the 80's-90's southeast Wisconsin was experiencing. This would have worked better for...

SLOT 2 - Ice Age Tournament (Magic: The Gathering)

Slot 2 found me in the Ice Age tournament, at the other end of the labyrinth, under the Arena. It was much warmer there. My deck wasn't especially hot, though. There were five rounds, in which you played two games against a different opponent of a similar record to yours. I understand that this is what is called "Swiss Style." (3 points for a win, 1 for a tie, 0 for a loss) I like it better than single-eliminations, because I got to play 10 games. I won the first two, then lost two, then split the next two and lost both of the last round, ending up with 13 points. As I was late to meet some friends, and it seemed that I would not advance, I left. (Nobody please tell me that that total would have advanced me! :)

Let me just say that Portent, Brainstorm and Diabolic Vision are really cool in getting your cards to show up in the order that you need them Too bad I only had one Vision.... Ray of Command is a great card, too. Interesting that one of my opponents, having used Ice Floe (which taps its target) on one of my tapped attackers earlier in the game, objected to my using the Ray (which untaps its target) to steal one of his untapped creatures, saying that I couldn't untap it because it was already untapped. ::sigh:: He finally relented, and I beat him.

BTW, bethmo (Beth Moursund) was helping run all the Magic tournaments that I saw during the weekend. I'm sure that there were other recognizable names there, but I didn't stare at all the nametags.

SLOT 3 - The Great Hall

(I didn't do all of this in Slot 3, it's sort of a conglomeration throughout the convention. :)

It turned out that the friends I was meeting weren't there when I got there, probably because I was late. In case you're interested, this was at the Infinity Entertainment booth, run by a friend of mine. Unfortunately, his mainly-empty booth was between Tri-Tac Games and Inner City Games (the Fuzzy Heroes people), both very colorful booths. Oh, well. It turned out to be a meeting and drop-off point for several of us. It was variously decorated with a purple baby Cthulhu and a werewolf skin during the convention.

Anyway, again this year it was obvious even to the most Groo-like of attendees whose con this was. Yes, the Fortress was back. This year, the Spellfire tables were being used for Dragon Dice, which I unfortunately didn't get a chance to try. In the large space in front of the Fortress, there were often performers from the Bristol (WI) Renaissance Faire performing. Or so I'm told; I didn't get through there very often. (Now, the WOTC booth...) There was a large pile of awards sitting in the middle of the courtyard, one of which I understand is in the hands of a fellow GEnieite, Jeff Stolt, the Blood Wars champion. Congratulations, Jeff!

[ Oh, did I mention the name of Groo the Wanderer? Groo's creator, Sergio Aragones, was there in his own booth. He was the comics guest of honor. I really haven't read much of his work, but I got a Groo book signed for a friend who's heavily into Mad magazine. ]

There were also the usual demo tables around the walls of the Fortress, including a rather intriguing-looking Planescape area. Pretty neat, but I didn't spend much time there.

Well, there was the Wizards of the Coast booth right next door! It looked like a lot of the same elements were used as last year, but it was in a different configuration. There was a "Gunslingers' Table", where I believe that members of the national teams from the world title the weekend before played all comers for ante. I didn't really spend any time watching, but I bet it was a lot of fun. There was also an original Mark Rosewater puzzle there, with the actual cards on a tagboard. The decks were those of the world champion and the runner-up. If you solved it, and your name was picked, you won a Richard Garfield-signed Black Lotus, as well as the cards in the puzzle. The next two got RG-modified cards, I believe. I solved the puzzle (with a little help...), but I wasn't around for the winner announcement. Should I expect a package...? :) (For those who didn't see the solution they had out Sunday, the key to the puzzle is your Strip Mine. Examine it closely.)

Again, they had a whole slew of artists there, and I got several dozen cards signed by the likes of (in no particular order) Liz Danforth (who was displaying her work at the Flying Buffalo booth), Margaret Organ-Kean, Doug Shuler, Phil and Kaja Foglio, Randy Asplundh-Faith, Mark Tedin, Susan Van Camp (she had her own booth), Anson Maddocks,